32km from our Baglio, only 20 minutes by car on the railway, you can easily reach Syracuse.
Located in the South-East coast of Sicily, Syracuse is notable for its rich history, culture and monuments.
The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans, and soon became the main city-state of Greek Sicily, as well as one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world: during the Classical Period it even equaled Athens in size.
Syracuse played a key role in the cultural development of the ancient world. It was the home to great artists and philosophers and was the birthplace of the best scientist of all time: the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. Many leading figures of Ancient Greece visited the city and lived here: among them there was also the eminent Athenian philosopher Plato, who chose Syracuse to actuate the model of his ideal state.
In 214 BC the Romans, led by consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus, besieged the city, that held out for three years, but fell in 212 BC. However, in the 1st century BC, Cicero still described Syracuse as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”.
After the Roman time, Syracuse passed through a period of Vandal rule, until it was recovered by Belisario for the Byzantine Empire (535 AD). Later, from 663 to 668, it became the seat of Emperor Constans II and metropolis of the whole Sicilian Church. With the Muslim conquest of Sicily in 878, the capital was moved to Palermo, and Syracuse lost its hegemony.
The city was struck by two terrible earthquakes in 1542 and 1693: the latter changed the aspect of Syracuse forever, as well as that of the entire Val di Noto. All the cities were rebuilt along the typical lines of Sicilian Baroque, considered one of the most typical expressions of art of southern Italy.
Today Syracuse has several important historical, architectural and natural attractions.
Since 2005 the entire city, along with the Necropolis of Pantalica which falls within its province, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
With no doubts, one of the most fascinating and famous tourist tours is the archaeological one, including a visit to the Greek Theatre and to the Neapolis Archaeological Park.
How extraordinary the Theatre of Syracusa was in ancient time is demonstrated by the fact that historical sources indicate its architect’s name: Damocope, also known as Myrilla. This Greek Theatre is one of the best preserved of the Classical Period and one of the largest ever built by the ancient Greeks: it has 67 rows divided into nine sections, with eight aisles. It was radically modified by Ierons II in the 3rd century, with whom the theatre acquired its actual aspect. Later, the Romans adapted it to their different spectacles, including also circus games and gladiator combats.
The Archaeological Park of Neapolis contains the greatest concentration of ruins of the Ancient Syracuse and is located on the North-West side of the actual city, on an area of nearly 240.000m2 which has its principal point on the Temenite Hill. It is a real open-air museum, the result of an ambitious project of the 1950s, aiming at gathering inside a unique site all the monuments of the ancient periods, from the
Proto-historic Age to the Byzantine and Roman times.
Syracuse has also notable examples of military architecture.
First of all the Euryalos Castle (the name comes from the Greek word eyryélos, i.e. “shaped like a nail”) located in the actual quarter of Belvedere. It was built by Dionysus I the Elder in six years, between 402 and 397 BC: a time during which Syracuse was preparing for the inevitable clash with the Carthaginians for the control of East Sicily. To strengthen the defence of the town, Dionysius decided to fortify the Epipoli (upper city), that during the Athenian attack and siege in 415-413 BC had been a weak point. Dionysus’ choice resulted appropriate and when war broke out, Syracuse prevailed. Later, many additions and alterations were made and even the great mathematician Archimedes made his part, creating some of the most innovative war machines used against the Roman army during the siege of Syracuse in the year 214 BC, such as the death ray, the iron claw and catapults. The Euryalos Castle is very impressive, partially dug directly into the rock and partially connected to the old town walls, for a total of 27km walls, built by Dionysus mobilizing 60.000 men and 6.000 pair of oxen. Moreover a dense network of underground tunnels allowed the soldiers to move quickly without being seen by enemies.
Many parts of the castle are still visible and also the panorama from this archaeological site is worth a visit.
Another beautiful example of military architecture is the Maniace Castle, situated at the extreme point of the Ortygia Island Promontory and built by Emperor Frederick II between 1232 and 1240. Originally the entrance was possible only over a bridge spamming a moat (now filled) and through a still visible portal of notable feature. For most of the 15th century the castle was a prison, however used in that period and in the following centuries also as fortification and focal point of the city walls for the defence of Syracuse.